There were signs that the Delaware Hayes High School softball team turned the corner this season.

There were signs that the Delaware Hayes High School softball team turned the corner this season.

The Pacers finished 15-12 overall and third at 9-5 in the OCC-Capital Division. The last time Delaware posted a winning record was in 2005 when it finished 23-8 and won a district championship. The Pacers hadn't finished above .500 in league play since 2004.

However, the streak that second-year coach Mark Thomas and the Pacers wanted snapped most didn't happen.

"Our big goal was to reach a district semifinal and I really thought this would be the year we ended that slump," Thomas said after the Pacers missed the district semifinals for the fourth consecutive year. "We also had a goal of winning or contending for the league championship and that was also realistic."

Delaware appeared on pace to reach both goals late in the regular season. The Pacers entered an April 29 showdown against visiting Hilliard Bradley at 14-7 overall and 9-2 in the OCC-Capital. Bradley was 10-1 in the league at the time.

Bradley scored five runs in the sixth inning and won 6-3. The Pacers spiraled from there, losing five of their final six games. They had a first-round bye in the Division I district tournament and lost to Westerville North 5-1 in the second round.

"We had such a strong season going and then that loss to Bradley put us in a slide," Thomas said. "I thought we would bounce back because we had four senior starters and good leadership. But we just never really regained that momentum we had in the first three-quarters of the season."

Delaware will lose senior starters Kayleigh Huck (1B), Emi Lewis (2B), Andrea Salyer (RF) and Abby Steele (C), as well as No. 2 pitcher Kimmie Haller.

Huck and Haller were four-year letterwinners and Steele was a three-year letterwinner.

Huck, a four-year starter, batted .349 with 18 runs and a team-high 30 RBI. She was first-team all-league and honorable mention all-district. Steele batted .375 with 15 RBI and was second-team all-league. She was named the team MVP.

Salyer, who moved into the starting lineup midway through the season, batted .387 with 16 runs and 10 stolen bases. She earned the team's Most Improved award. Lewis, a solid middle infielder, batted .244 with 10 runs and 10 RBI. She was the team's OCC scholar-athlete.

Starters expected to return are juniors Cindy Bowman (SS), Tia Hinten (P), Kalene Schmidt (CF) and Carly Shaw (LF), as well as freshman Alaina Manor (3B).

Schmidt was first-team all-conference and second-team all-district. She led the team in batting average (.463), runs (27), stolen bases (24) and walks (25), plus added 15 RBI from her leadoff spot to earn the team's Top Offensive award.

Bowman (.303 with 18 runs and 15 RBI) was special mention all-league and Shaw (.247, 8 runs, 13 RBI) was honorable mention. Bowman was selected as the team's Top Defensive recipient.

Hinten (14-8, 2.14 ERA) was second-team all-league after going 9-5 with a 1.33 ERA in OCC-Capital games.

"We won seven games last year and 15 this year, so the underclassmen are winning more and more," Thomas said. "They're going to come back expecting that to continue and have a nice foundation to build on now."

Also expected to return are sophomore Amber Arthur, who started in right field for the first half of the season, and freshmen Phoebe Lewis (P) and Ciara Cast (OF).

At a glance

•Record: 15-12 overall, 9-5 (third) in OCC-Capital

•Seniors lost: Kimmie Haller, Kayleigh Huck, Emi Lewis, Andrea Salyer and Abby Steele

•Key returnees: Amber Arthur, Cindy Bowman, Abby Dodge, Tia Hinten, Phoebe Lewis, Alaina Manor, Kalene Schmidt and Carly Shaw